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Rated PG-13 for suggestive and sexual material, violence and thematic elements
Runtime 157 minutes
Release date: December 25
Rating: Exceptional emotional performances
Audiences have not seen a movie musical the size and scope of “Les Miserables” in years. As it hits the big screen, it’s my hope the large-scale epic movie musical makes a comeback.
After hearing the musical talents of Anne Hathaway (“The Dark Knight Rises”) and Hugh Jackman (“Real Steel”) in other mediums, musical fans have clamored to see them in a movie musical for years. They have what they’ve been waiting for.
Hathaway’s performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” as Fantine in this adaptation of the musical is outstanding and Oscar worthy. Her decision to play the song raw and emotional instead of doing what she’s called the “pretty” version is outstanding. It’s hard to sit through her performances without shedding tears.
Jackman is in his element. He is as comfortable on stage in a musical as he is battling evil mutants as Wolverine. It is the role of a lifetime for him.
I also was eager to hear Russell Crowe (“Robin Hood”) sing. It’s been known this Oscar winner also spends time singing in rock bands and the rock sound he gives to his performance works.
There are a few words of caution. This is a grown-up musical with adult themes and emotions. Some of the songs, visuals and dialogue are crude, fitting to the time and circumstances of the characters. Also, it is not a happy musical. Anyone familiar with the stage version or the classic book written by Victor Hugo knows the bulk of the cast doesn’t make it all the way through the revolution.
It is a very long movie, in which all the dialogue is sang instead of spoken. If you are not used to this style of musical, it might not be for you.
But the performances are the most emotional I have ever seen in a musical. Bring tissues. You will need them.
Director Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”) made a decision to film the vocal performances live on set, which is different from most musicals. Vocals typically are recorded months before and then lip-synced later as the actors performed their role. This process added to the emotion of their performance. They weren’t trying to react to something prerecorded. They were performing live and in the moment of their performance. The emotion was gritty and the backbone of the film.
Amanda Seyfried (“Mamma Mia”), Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Dictator”), Helena Bonham Carter (“The King’s Speech”), Eddie Redmayne (“My Week with Marilyn”) and stage actress Samantha Barks also give emotion and strength to their roles. Newcomers Daniel Huttlestone and Isabelle Allen are compelling in their roles as the main children in the musical.
A musical like “Les Miserables” is not going to be for everyone. It’s long, it’s without spoken dialogue and it’s sad.
But if you are a fan of the stage version and want to see great performances, it’s one not to miss and will be well recognized at Oscar time.